Equally rich and creamy as it is light and smooth, Swiss Meringue Buttercream is my first pick for frosting. Its silkiness and stability makes it a preferred choice for most pastry chefs and wedding cake makers, but it can be easily made in the home kitchen too. Concerned about whipping egg whites and working with meringue? Well, it’s time to officially kick those worries to the curb and become a fearless Swiss Meringue Buttercream master!
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while or picked up a copy of my book, “Layered,” then you know how much I sing the praises of Swiss meringue buttercream. Not too sweet and flawlessly smooth, I opt for this meringue-based frosting 9 times out of 10. I find it extremely versatile and easy to flavor (think coffee, raspberry, passion fruit, mint, and more!), although plain vanilla (preferably with some fresh vanilla bean seeds) is equally lick-straight-off-the-spoon worthy. Want effortlessly smooth cakes or heavenly swirls of frosting? This is the recipe you need.
So if Swiss meringue buttercream is the preferred choice for professionals and is so superior in texture and flavor, then why don’t more home bakers use it? Okay, I admittedly don’t know if anything in that last statement is at all accurate, nor in the next, but I think it's the mixing process intimidates many meringue-based buttercream novices. Either that or they hate delicious frosting and love extra work and stress when trying to ice a cake, hehe.
Lucky for us all, I put together a little video showing (almost) step-by-step how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream! Check it out:
This recipe can be used exactly as is or as the base to a variety of other frostings. I find that it is not as sweet as most other types of frostings, so it is easier to flavor. For example, you can find recipes using this base for Honey Sour Cream Buttercream for the Honey Apple Cake, Graham Frosting for the Pumpkin Pie Cake, and even Coconut Rum Buttercream for the Coconut Mojito Cake in my book! So many options it is hard to pick a favorite!
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
makes about 3 ½ cups - see notes
½ cup (120 ml) egg whites (from about 3 to 4 large eggs)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks – 340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional)
How to Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1. Whisk together the sugar and egg whites: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the egg whites and granulated sugar. Whisk them together briefly by hand, just until they are combined so that the egg whites don’t begin cooking by themselves.
2. Create a double-boiler: Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl. The double-boiler acts as indirect heat for the egg white mixture.
3. Heat the egg white mixture: Occasionally stirring, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer. The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved.
4. Make the meringue: Once the egg white mixture is hot, carefully return the bowl to the stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 minutes. When done, the meringue should hold shiny, medium-stiff peaks and be cooled to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
5. Add the butter: With the mixer on low, begin adding in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Use the paddle attachment to mix it in. The butter must be room temperature in order to incorporate properly with the meringue.
6. Add the vanilla: Once the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla bean seeds (if using) and the vanilla extract.
7. Mix until smooth: Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until silky smooth. This may take a few minutes, but centime to mix until light, creamy, and free from most air bubbles.
Tips and Trouble Shooting:The egg whites should be free from any drips of egg yolks. Likewise, the mixing bowl should be clean and free from grease. Any fat (grease or yolks) may prevent the egg whites from whipping properly.
If you do not have a candy thermometer, it is possible to test the heated egg white mixture by touch but BE CAREFULL! The mixture is hot enough when it stings behind your fingernail just a bit.
When the meringue is done mixing, the outside of the mixing bowl should be room temperature. You should not be able to feel any residual heat escaping out of the top either.
If after you add the butter the buttercream begins to curdle, just keep mixing. The butter was most likely too cold and will require more time to incorporate. This process may take up to about 5 minutes, so be patient. Alternatively, you may remove a small amount of buttercream and melt it in the microwave. Add the small amount of melted buttercream to the mixing bowl and incorporate until smooth.
If the buttercream appears soupy, the butter was most likely too warm. If this happens, place the mixing bowl (and its contents) in the refrigerator for about 15 before trying to mix again.
Storage: The buttercream may use immediately or stored at room temperature for the day. If making in advanced, the buttercream may be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to about 10 days or in the freezer for 2 months. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and mix thoroughly before use.
Serving Size: This recipe makes enough buttercream to fill and frost a three-layer 6-inch round cake. This recipe may be doubled to fill and frost a three-layer 8-inch round cake
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Yay, thank you so much for putting time into sharing these awesome tips and a wonderful video! SMB has totally kicked my butt more than once and I love hearing all the pointers I can get to improve my skills with it! You're the best!
You are very welcome. It is about time I put this together, hehe. Hope you are now on your way to SMB success!
Hey Tessa, I would love to make this! Does it stand well in humid weather? Humid, and hot as in Puerto Rico tropical weather?
Hi Wendy! That is a great question. I don't know how it would do in the humidity, but extreme heat would probably make for a pretty melty buttercream since there is so much butter. An Italian meringue buttercream might hold up better (where you cook the sugar into a syrup first, then add to the whipped egg whites) Do you make meringue much in the humidity? I wish I could be more helpful!
Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! I've always made the Italian meringue buttercream, but get so frustrated when the hot sugar sticks to the sides or bottom of the bowl. I'm definitely going to use this method instead next time. Thank you!
Hi Bridget! I used to only make Italian meringue buttercream, then I started making SMB when my candy thermometer broke one day and never looked back. Italian is a bit more stable, but SMB is much less fussy =)
I'm so excited to try it! It's been a while, but it's such an art that it's hard not to feel great while doing it, ya know? Question...do you ever tap the bowl on the counter to get rid of the air bubbles? I've hear of this but never tried...was always to scared I'd deflate the meringue or something.
WOOHOO! I'm a SMBC TRUE BELIEVER! I think it tastes almost like a lightly sweet whipped cream, the texture is so airy and lovely. Love the video, too - really shows the steps nicely, and how it whips up into a gorgeous CLOUD OF GOODNESS. (love the troubleshooting tips too - soupy AND curdling has happened to me, and it's amazing how you can "bring it back to life" with those great tips.) XO
mmmmm lightly sweet whipped cream - SMB you are the frosting of my dreams! haha.
That cake! How did you get such a great pink?
Hi there! I use a little bit of red gel food colouring =)
This looks amazing!! I usually make IMBC; just curious if there is a big taste difference between Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams? Thanks!!
They taste fairly similar, I think. IMBC is a bit more fussy but also slightly more stable. If it's not too hot and/or I know the cake won't be sitting out long (like at a wedding, for example), I usually stick with SMC because I think it is a bit easier to throw together =)
Hi Tessa, I bought a copy of your book and am just getting started with baking more complex cakes. It's a gorgeous book! One problem I've found is that I live in Denver at about 6000 feet, and I'd love some tips on adapting your recipes for high altitude. Thank you!
Thank you sooo much for sharing this recipe! It looks amazing!
I will be baking a 2 layer 12" round, should I double or triple the recipe?
I made this icing and while it was light fluffy it tastes too much like butter what can i do or what did i do to make it taste like butter.
So I have tried to make this before, but while i think i did mess up, I also thought it was not sweet enough. How could I make it sweeter without ruining the consistency?